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5 Tips for Successful Business Networking – Online and Offline
Business networking is not only about finding followers and “likes” for your social network pages. It is more about making the proper connections online and offline.
Here are some things you can do to benefit from networking:
- Build relationships that will enable both parties to benefit. Make sure you are clear about what you have to offer and how it can help them succeed.
- Offering referrals to contacts who can potentially help you is a great way to be remembered by them and can lead to successful business opportunities, so don’t be afraid to give referrals. Seek to find extraordinary ways to help them.
- In order to network successfully you first must understand your purpose for networking and stick to it. When networking, make sure you ask questions that will help you better understand the needs of the other person. Ask open-ended questions so that you can determine how you may be able to meet their needs.
Here are a few important rules that apply to online and offline networking.
- Building Relationships, Not Sales
Networking is not about selling your products and services. It’s about building lasting relationships. It’s an opportunity for you to connect with people with similar backgrounds and get them talking about you in a positive way. You should be engaging them in discussions about current business practices. Share information about who you are as an individual, your perspective on life, and your mission.
It is very important to contribute valuable information to the conversation as it will encourage the other person to share information as well. While communicating with them, think of ways you can offer them immediate help or assistance such as promoting them on your blog or writing an article and linking it back to their site. These are small things that can make a big difference.
- Give Them More Than What They Expect
There are some things that are generally expected in a business relationship like providing contact information, making client referrals, supporting independent businesses and reviewing products and giving feedback. A key to developing solid relationships is to go beyond those things and offer something of value that is unexpected.
Instead of sending an email, send a handwritten card. Do what 90% of your business peers don’t — contact them and set up a meeting to brainstorm ways in which you can support each other’s business.
- Understand Your Purpose
Whether you are networking online or offline, the key is to know why you are doing it. If you understand your purpose you will waste less time in building relationships with the right people. You’ll have a better idea of what social media platforms or forums to reach or what type of networking events to attend. Understanding your purpose will help you avoid wasting time talking with people who do not fit within your purpose or mission.
- Ask Open Ended Questions
The best way to network is to engage in conversation and this applies to both online and offline relationships. The most successful way to network is to ask questions that will encourage the other person to provide as much information as possible. In other words, ask open-ended questions that will get people talking. Find out what they are looking for and how you can best serve them. Asking them who their ideal customer is will help you make profitable referrals.
- Be Attentive and Listen Actively
You might not be able to see your contacts or look them in the eyes online but you can still show interest by actively listening (or reading) to what they have to say. Instead of thinking about what your next response will be, effectively listen for clues as to what is important to them and make notes if necessary. You can then begin to focus on ways you can be of service to them.
When networking in person, it is also important that you maintain eye contact and present yourself in a professional manner.
Setting and managing your networking goals can be beneficial if you have a plan and incorporate it wisely into your business. If you want to build solid relationships, then you must nurture them, which means you should consistently listen attentively, ask questions to spark conversation, give more than what is expected and above all know your purpose and don’t deviate from it.